Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Doorway to ... what was that again?

Typical moment in my life: I’m at the computer, working hard. I realize I’m thirsty. I walk into the kitchen. I spot a phone bill that I was supposed to pay. I look for my purse, realize it’s back at my desk. I walk back to my computer, where I sit down and check  Facebook. An hour later, I surface, desperately thirsty, phone bill still unpaid. That’s when the cycle starts over again, with perhaps a few tweaks here and there.

As a writer, I’m naturally inclined toward distraction. I use up all my focus while I’m working on my manuscript. When I take a break, I wander around in a sort of daze, remembering other crap I’m supposed to take care of, then forgetting it again. But can I really use writing as an excuse? Maybe I’m just getting more forgetful as I get older.

Isn’t that a lovely thought.

Luckily, I just stumbled across some information that puts the blame not on me or my deteriorating mental state, but on an inanimate object. Believe it or not, DOORS. Did you know that those dastardly doorways can cause memory loss? In one study, volunteers walked through a virtual “room,” picking up an object from one table and taking it to another. The object – being virtual -- would disappear after they picked it up. If the subjects walked through a doorway to the next table, they had much less chance of remembering what that object was. If they simply walked across the room, they had no trouble.

Yes! That’s exactly what happens to me all the time!

The research concluded that doors act as “event boundaries” in your mind. Event boundaries are one way the brain filters information and decides what’s important to hang onto. Anything that happened before you walk through the door gets filed away in the archives as your mind prepares for what it will encounter on the other side of the door. So if you leave one room for a certain purpose, that purpose may only come back to you once you return to that room.

Has that ever happened to you? Aren’t you relieved to learn that it’s totally normal? I am. The downside is that I’m not sure how to trick my brain into remembering what I came into the kitchen for. I wonder if Post-it notes will do the trick.

So … have you encountered the phenomenon? Do you have any good memory techniques?   


Skylar Kade said...

Interesting!! Those blasted doors...and yes, this happens to me all the time. The only thing that helps is retracing my thoughts and almost envisioning the room I was in previously.

Kelly Jamieson said...

Happens all the time. I've been blaming it on my age-related memory issues. But it's the DOORS!!